The book of Hebrews is an interesting book in the New Testament.
It is masterly written but we don’t know who wrote the Letter to the Hebrews.
Initial thoughts were that it might have been Paul but scholars believe this was so it would get into the New Testament.
It seems to be written to people who are giving up their faith because of persecution – who are leaving the church, who are leaving the Christian faith.
In Chapter 10 it specifically pleads with the readers: Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer.
That’s what Jesus is also concerned about in our Gospel reading with the Day of the Lord coming nearer – when he says:
“But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
The book of Hebrews is written to people who have endured suffering and now, these people are growing weary in their faith.
They look at what’s in front of them, and they don’t like it.
So the message is: Don’t give up.
Trust that Jesus Christ is the one in whom we can hope.
Jesus Christ is the one in whom we can trust.
Jesus Christ is the one in whom we can place our faith because Jesus holds the future.
Have faith in Jesus because Jesus is the future and the faithful one.
So in our bible reading it’s not surprising that it contains the word “faith” 7 times.
The Book of Hebrews is very concerned about Christians losing their faith as they look around them and see people losing their faith because of what’s happening.
And so the take from this is that what we are experiencing in the 21st century is not a lot different – in fact no different – than the very first century.
So our reading encourages us to not be so concerned about what we see but about what we believe.
Not about what we see or hear from the voices in the media and in the public about the Christian faith but about what God says:
And that’s what we call “faith”.
And so it says: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
We can’t see things we put our faith in.
But we can see all the turmoil and troubled times in the world around us.
God has enshrined our hope in physical things – the water of our baptism, the bread and wine of Holy Communion – his word made flesh.
But only by faith can we actually understand and experience them.
Without faith they only seem to be what we can visually see –water, bread, wine, a book.
But with the eyes faith they are for us the power of God.
Just as St Paul says about the Cross of Christ.
To the eyes without faith it was a humiliating death – total defeat.
But as he says in 1st Corinthians: the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
We visually see the same thing as everyone else.
But with the eyes of faith we can see God at work.
The book of Hebrews was written into times just like these.
Times of persecution.
Times of drifting away from the Christian faith.
It reminds us to not give up the faith because we are giving up so much if we do with the Day of the Lord’s Judgement coming.
The journey of faith is not always easy and the writer uses several Old Testament heroes of the faith to encourage us – like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Sarah – who all faced difficulties of varying types.
But he speaks about Abraham’s faith – often referred to as the Father of Faith.
The writer says: By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance;
Abraham was asked by God to trust him when he was asked to leave all his security behind – his family, his friends, his livelihood – and to go to the Promised Land without knowing where is was or what it might provide.
Sometimes the future is not known for us and the church and we are asked to trust God.
Abraham faced enemies and hostile lands, just like we do – but he kept his faith in God just as you are asked to do.
We too are on a journey to our Promised Land and along the way we go through hostile territory.
Sometimes we don’t know what is around the corner.
But, like Abraham, we are asked to have faith in God.
We are on our journey to our Promised Land in the Kingdom of Heaven and Jesus says:
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
It is when we let our fears take hold of us that we put less faith in Jesus and more faith in ourselves – and that has no assurance.
Assurance, as the writer says faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
We cannot see the future, but God in Jesus has made a future that awaits us.
We cannot see the future, but in Jesus, God shows us a future which Jesus has prepared already.
The church is not perfect.
It lets people down at times because it exists in human time.
That is what if often called the church militant – the church that is fighting the good fight.
But there is also what is called the church triumphant.
The church that has already won the victory through Christ’s death and resurrection.
The church that Jesus has built on the rock of faith and not even the gates of Hades can overcome it.
The church is where we see faith being formed and strengthened through Word and Sacrament.
Faith that trusts the promises of God and the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.
Faith that stands on the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.
This is faith that endures and carries people through incredible physical suffering and pain.
This is faith that asks for forgiveness, faith that forgives, faith that reconciles, faith that changes lives.
A faith by which God leads to hope and joy and strength and peace and a future we cannot yet see, but of which we can be assured and confident.
As St Paul says to the Colossians – our lives are hidden now with Christ in heaven.
And when Christ returns and his glory is revealed so too our lives will be revealed.
It is a glory that is not yet seen but one that is there and experienced through faith.
Being a Christian – worshipping our Lord – receiving the Sacraments – are all about preparing us and keeping us ready for our Lord’s return.
They are there to keep us strong in our faith so we will not fear that Day of Judgment whenever it comes – so we can be confident of our eternal life and receive the Kingdom prepared for us with pleasure.